With its stately façade, the Continental is the grande dame of hotels built during French rule. The hotel is set around a courtyard, which is well-shaded with frangipani trees, while inside, the red- carpeted staircases retain their original tropical hardwood. The structure, for the most part, has been spared the “modernization” visited upon some other historic buildings in the city, and the hotel wears its patina of age well.
The hotel has also earned a place in the annals of history for attracting illustrious visitors since its completion in 1886. During the Vietnam War, top- flight journalists, including Walter Cronkite (1916–2009), would stay here and spend hours on the famous terrace bar, which they dubbed “The Continental Shelf.” Writers André Malraux (1901–76) and W. Somerset Maugham (1874–1965) are other guests of note, but it is Graham Greene (1904–91) who immortalized the Continental in his novel The Quiet American (1955). It is no surprise that he captured the spirit of the time and place so well, since he lived in the hotel for several months.